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Bengal Province

miles, square, castes, india, behar and districts

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BENGAL PROVINCE occupies the lower part of the valleys of the Ganges andthe Brahmaputra, but gives its name to an administrative circle, with an area square miles, and a population of 69,536,861, part of the area, 36,634 square miles, comprising the hilly districts of Koch-13ahar, Hill Tiperah, the Tributary States of Orissa, Chutia Naepur, and Behar.

In Sind, conquering and fleeing races have been stopped by the Indus, the ocean, and the Indian desert ; in the Panjab, the further southern pro gress of advancing tribes has been barred by the many rivers, and by the fronting nations of Aryans, Jat, and Rajput settled in the Gangetic plain; and, similarly, many great tribes who are distinct from the races in other parts of India, and who keep aloof from each other, have been cooped up into the river and hill regions of Bengal. Amongst such may be mentioned the Babhan, Baori, Barui, Bhumia, Bhumij, Bind. Dosadh, Gareri, Kandara, Kapali, Karan, Khan dait, Kharwar, Koch, Kol, Madak, Mal, Pan, Pod, Rajwar, Sadgop, Santal, and Tiar. There are even now in Bengal 38,319 Asiatics other than natives of India and British Burma.

Bengal is under the jurisdiction of a Lieutenant Governor, and comprises the four provinces of Bengal proper, 76,40G square miles; Behar, 14,139 square miles ; Orissa, 9053 square miles; and Chutia Nagpur, 26,966 square miles; with 36,634 square miles of Feudatory States. These great provinces are arranged for administrative purposes into nine revenue circles, each under a British officer ; their respective areas, in square miles, and population, being as under :— A remarkable feature in this summary is to be seen in the great numbers who profess Islam. The total number in all India of this persuasion is 50,121,585, and almost one-half of that number is in Bengal. Many of them are found in Eastern Bengal and the adjoining districts of Sylhet and Cachar, and in the two districts of Bogra and Rajshahi, and there they comprise the bulk of the cultivating and labouring class ; while in Chitta gong and Noakhali they follow a seafaring life.

When they embraced this religion is not known, nor is it known from what race of aborigines they were converted, and few of them present any peculiar features. The Malik or Mullak of Behar are sup posed to have been converted Rajputs. They cultivate land, and the wealthy possess consider able landed property, but generally they are em ployed as land-agents and peons. They use toddy freely, and are turbulent when under its influence. They do not intermarry with other Muhammadan: their marriage ceremonies are kept secret, and are conducted by women. Others of the Muham madans retain portions of their former creeds. Many of the Bedi tribe of Bengal, for instance, have adopted Islam and are circumcised, but con tinue to w6rship the Hindu goddess Kali.

The Hindus have all adopted that caste system which is so intimately bound up with other parts of their religious and social life. The number of their castes is supposed to be about 1000, and the more prominent among them are the Adhiltari, Babhan, Baidya, Bhat, Brahman, Des•ali, Dogla. Ghatwal, Karin, Kayasth, Khandait, Khandwal, KisImpachi, Mahanti, and Rajput. There are 265 minor castes, numbering 1,371,260 persons.

The trading castes, 963,159 in number, are the Banya, Komati, kluniyara, Nuniyar, Panwaria, Stirat•ala, and Vesya, but the nations of all parts of Asia, Europe, and America have here.their representatives engaged in commerce.

The pastoral castes, in number 4,115,377, corn Sem—Bengal is, for India, in the unusual position of having more of the female than of the male sex, the respective numbers being 34,911,270 and but they largely continue the Hindu practice of giving their young girls in marriage to full-grown or even middle-aged men. The neces sary result follows in a great number of widows, and while there are in Bengal 1,375,217 widowers, there are 7,401,629 widows.

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